Tips to Select the Recommenders for MBA Application

Gauri Khatri

Gauri Khatri

Founder, Pegasus Global Consultants

The letters of recommendations are one of the most critical part of an MBA application. They enable the admission committee to get to know you from another person’s perspective, so It is important to add the voices and views that build on and complement your own while maximising your chances of selection. Therefore, your recommenders play a critical role in the process.

Often, choosing your recommenders can be seen as a test of judgement. Selecting a recommender who writes an ineffective letter can raise questions about your own ability to judge your social interactions. Following are some pointers as what admission committee looks for in Reference Letters:

1. How well do the reference and the applicant know each other – Your recommender should be senior to you. Strong reference letters from your senior leaders will help your application to standout. Admission Committee are rarely impressed or swayed by a recommender’s title – what they care about is whether or not you will be an asset to the program because of your achievements. Given the choice between a recommender with an impressive title who doesn’t know you personally or someone who has worked with you closely with a less-impressive title, always choose the reference that knows you best.

2. Recommendation letters should reflect authenticity and evidence– Your recommendation letters should reinforce the skills and strengths advertised in the other components of your application. Adcoms greatly prefer to hear from managers who know you well. They’re looking for more insight into you, how you perform in groups, and your future potential. Your recommender should be able to go into specifics about your accomplishments or provide detailed anecdotes that highlight your positive personality traits.

3. Selection of Supervisors – It is sensible to ask recommendations from your current supervisors as they would be able to provide the most comprehensive and up-to-date perspective on your professional journey. However, if you decide to choose your former supervisor, pick the recommenders with whom you have a strong relationship so their letters can be more positive and persuasive. Applicants who are entrepreneurs or into the family business can seek recommendations from advisors or clients and justify it in the optional essay section.

4. Choose someone skilled in the art of persuasive writing and who truly believes in your rightful candidacy. Your reference should be able to convince the Adcoms that you truly deserve this chance and sway them in your favor. Writing a recommendation letter is a collaborative process, your recommender should be willing to listen to your feedback and work with you to strengthen your reference letter. Apprise your recommender about the entire selection process, questions, deadlines and the schools you are applying. Prepare elaborate materials for them describing your goals and experiences, specific anecdotes and examples you would like them to incorporate in the letter. In conclusion, choosing the wrong recommender and/or not managing the process effectively can make a big difference in getting accepted or getting turned down.

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